Lydia Webster is assistant curator at the GTU Center for the Arts & Religion (CARe) and Doug Adams Gallery. She holds an MA in Museum Studies from the University of San Francisco (2017).
Where Religion and the Arts Converge
The Doug Adams Gallery is a gathering place for the GTU community and a big part of why I love the GTU. As one of only a handful of galleries in the country that focus on the intersection of the arts and spirituality, it has a great deal to offer GTU students, faculty, and staff, as well as the people of the wider Bay Area.
My role as assistant curator at the GTU’s Center for the Arts & Religion (CARe) and Doug Adams Gallery has given me the opportunity to combine my two professional interests: academic museums and the study of religion. I have worked full-time at CARe for about a year, following a summer internship at the Doug Adams Gallery and a period of part-time work archiving and cataloging the sacred art collection at the GTU library. This job has been an incredible learning opportunity for me in more ways than I anticipated.
During the summer of 2017, I held an internship with CARe as curatorial assistant while completing my Master’s in Museum Studies at the University of San Francisco (USF). I curated an exhibition of Greek Orthodox liturgical vestments that belong to Metropolitan Nikitas of the Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute (PAOI). I saw this work as the practical embodiment of my undergraduate research on the display of sacred objects in museums. I was also empowered to create a public program to augment the exhibition, which allowed me to invite Kh. Krista West, an ecumenical vestment tailor based in Oregon, to speak to the GTU community. Perhaps the most meaningful aspect of the internship was giving congregants of PAOI and Orthodox churches in the area the opportunity to view closely sacred items that they see in their worship spaces and to appreciate the history and rich lineage embodied within each garment.
This internship impressed upon me the unique nature of an art gallery housed within an academic institution. While what we display should have aesthetic and entertainment value, above all, our exhibitions should provide educational value in a format otherwise seldom used in the classroom. That dual effort to entertain and enlighten has been a part of each of the exhibitions that have taken place since I began my full-time position with CARe. whether it be our “Religion and Resistance” collection of protest art in spring 2018, our first annual MFA Show in the summer of 2018, or our Fall 2018 exhibition, “Gestures to the Divine,” featuring the ecologically-oriented art of Hagit Cohen.
This spring, CARe has taken its programming in a new direction, inviting the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble into the Doug Adams Gallery for a semester-long residency. This residency, combined with our ‘Sacred Sounds” exhibition in the gallery, places the focus on music as a way to highlight our interest in showcasing the arts, plural.
Having grown up in Berkeley, I have long known about the GTU; I even used the library’s resources while writing a high school paper on LGBTQI+ members of the Episcopal Church. What I didn’t realize until I began to work at the GTU was what a vibrant and thriving community we have on our beautiful, hilltop campus.
The Doug Adams Gallery is a gathering place for that community and a big part of why I love the GTU. As one of only a handful of galleries in the country that focus on the intersection of the arts and spirituality, it has a great deal to offer GTU students, faculty, and staff, as well as the people of the wider Bay Area. I look forward to coming into work every day, not knowing what the day will bring. From working with various artists from all over the country to getting my hands dirty installing unique exhibitions to teaching my first ever graduate-level class, there’s never a dull moment as the assistant curator at CARe!
If you’re interested in learning more about the many programs CARe has to offer, please visit the CARe section of the GTU website (www.gtu.edu/care), and follow us on social media at www.facebook.com/CARE.DougAdamsGallery | www.instagram.com/caregtu | www.twitter.com/caregtu